Article

Ask The Wrong Questions, Get The Wrong Answers

April 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Dean Evans - Also by this author

Web site providers are a pretty eager-to-please bunch. When you’re shopping around for someone to design and build your dealership’s Web site, the questions you ask are likely to receive a lot of positive responses: from “Yes!” to “You bet!” to “Absolutely!”

The problem is getting what you ask for isn’t always a good thing. If you’re asking for the wrong Web site, that’s precisely what you’re likely to wind up with. Dealers manage to do this in two main ways:

Mistake #1: Asking for an Eye-Popping Design
Ten years ago, it was fine for a business to think of its Web site as an online brochure. Back then, the site’s look was almost as important as the information it contained. To put it another way, the purpose of the Web site was simple enough that fancy visual effects helped, or at least didn’t hurt.

Today, it may make sense for high-end clothing designers to astonish and delight their Web site visitors, but as an auto dealer, you need a Web site that can function effectively as the main marketing hub for all your profit centers. The design should be consistent with the character of your business, but it also has to be clean, accessible and easy to navigate.

If you want to ask a potential vendor about design, here’s the right way to express the question: “Can you build me a site that captures my dealership’s personality without sacrificing effectiveness?”

Mistake #2: Asking for Complete Customization
If a Web site company agrees to deliver a site designed entirely according to your specifications, one of two things must be true: either the company doesn’t know more about effective Web site design than you do or the company doesn’t care. Either way, you’re headed for trouble.

You need a Web site provider that understands the science of design and is 100 percent committed to giving your dealership a design that truly performs. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a role in the design process. This only means that you should look for a provider that cares too much about measurable results to yield to your every suggestion.

The Correct Approach: Asking About Performance
The only thing that really matters about your new site is whether or not it performs. If you focus your search around questions about performance, you’ll accomplish two huge goals. First, you’ll weed out all the pretenders. Companies that don’t think in terms of performance don’t have a clue about how to deliver it. Second, you’ll have much more productive conversations with the candidates that remain.

What is performance? That’s a great question in itself. You should have a sense of the answer and you should be sure to ask this question of any company that you interview. For an auto dealer, a performing Web site is one that generates a lot of traffic. It’s also one that turns a lot of that traffic into leads. Let’s look at some other good questions:

? How will this Web site create a strong flow of traffic?
? How can you ensure that the people who visit my Web site are serious car buyers in my market?

The correct answer is going to have something to do with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which is main technique for improving your ranking on the major search engines. The mere mention of SEO isn’t enough. For a long time, SEO was a pretty simple matter; a finished site was optimized for a handful of keywords that were refined and adjusted over time. Today, however, it’s possible to design a site from the ground up with SEO in mind—to make the very architecture of the Web site serve the purpose of driving qualified traffic. Be sure that the providers you talk to have this advanced view of the science of SEO.

? What does this Web site do to convert visitors into leads?
? How can I measure the conversion of visitors to leads?
? How does the Web site turn traffic into increased business in all my profit centers?

These questions are sure to make a lot of Web site salespeople twitch, mumble and cough. This is hard stuff, but it’s what performance ultimately boils down to: more sales opportunities, more service appointments, more trade-ups, more extended warrantees and ultimately more profits. If a provider’s approach isn’t driven by these things, it will show, and you’ll know to stay away.

PS: Beware of “Features”
One last word: don’t let yourself get caught up in comparing or counting “features.” This is the key strategy in the marketing approach taken by many Web site providers and it’s mostly a way of sidestepping the question of performance. This or that feature may sound like a great thing, but the great thing is attracting new visitors, converting them to leads and making sales. If a feature isn’t presented as something that will help you do those things, then it’s not p

Vol 5, Issue 3

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